Unethical Quote Of The Month: “A New Deal For Broadway”

“[N]ever assemble an all-white creative team on a production again, regardless of the subject matter of the show…”

——A provision in the “New Deal for Broadway,”  an agreement signed by Broadway “power-brokers” pledging to strengthen the industry’s diversity practices as theaters reopen following the nearly 18-month pandemic shutdown.

A New Deal for Broadway,” was developed by Black Theater United, one of several organizations established last year, the Times story tells us, “as an outgrowth of the anger Black theater artists felt over the police killings” of George Floyd in Minnesota and Breonna Taylor in Kentucky. “Black Theater United’s founding members include some of the most celebrated performers working in the American theater, including Audra McDonald, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Billy Porter, Wendell Pierce, Norm Lewis and LaChanze.”

The pledge was signed by the owners and operators of all 41 Broadway theaters as well as the Broadway League, the trade organization representing producers, and Actors’ Equity Association, which represents actors and stage managers.

Observations:

  • The Times piece says that the agreement “commits” signatories to such actions as establishing diversity trainings, hiring “racial sensitivity coaches,”, renaming theaters for Black artists and establish diversity rules for the Tony Awards. It also says that the pact is not legally enforceable, meaning that it is just grandstanding without substance at this point.
  • It also means, though the Times doesn’t have the candor to say so, that parts of the pledge are unenforceable because they are illegal.
  • But, as they sang in “The Bandwagon,” “That’s entertainment!”
  • I hate to insult the business that has occupied so much of my time over the years, but there is no getting away from the fact that actors et al. as a group just aren’t very bright. This thing is more proof.
  • For example, anyone who can connect the need for diversity in the theater with the deaths of George Floyd or Breonna Taylor is welcome to try. Neither died because of a lack of diversity or even because of anti-black racism. Those angry theater professionals, as is so, so often the case, literally don’t know what the hell they are talking about, but they will still shoot off their mouths with stentorian flair.
  • They don’t even know what racism is, apparently, because that Unethical Quote of the Month above is racist, straight up. The fact that it was signed by directors and writers—you know, the smart ones— amply demonstrates how ignorant and hypocritical the theater world is.
  • Imagine a racial quota system developed by something called “White Theater United” being signed by the same  people. How many white artists are involved in the leadership of Black Theater United? As far as I can tell, none. So a group of black artists ordered Broadway directors and writers to promise never to allow an “all white creative team” to work on a show, while all-black creative teams are, presumably, considered morally and artistically beyond reproach, and the directors and writers said, “SUUURE!” Brilliant.
  • I wonder how many Americans are going to be willing to spend a hundred bucks to sit in the dark and be lectured to by people with no more sense than that. I won’t.
  • The pledge is 1) a quota 2) racially discriminatory, 3) hypocritical, as I said, 4) essentially requiring tokenism, and 5) a racist indictment of individuals according to their color, and nothing else.
  • What’s wrong with a creative team that happens to be all-white? If no black individuals were excluded because of race, the answer is “nothing.” But if one slot on the team has to be filled by someone not originally involved in launching the project and the group says “No whites, dogs or Irish may apply,” that’s illegal, unethical, and stupid. But again: that’s entertainment!

With all the existential problems facing Broadway and live theater itself, the theater industry picked now to impugn whites, it’s primary audience, and announce its intention to discriminate against them Why? Oh, only because a career petty criminal met a brutal cop who would have killed him the same way if he had been green, and because a black woman with a series of drug dealing boyfriends got caught in the crossfire when one of them shot at officers raiding her home. One more time: Brilliant!

In the 2018-19 season, Broadway audiences were 74% white, 3.9% black, , 8.6% Asian, and 8% Hispanic. So the business decides to announce that an all Asian creative team is fine, an all black creative team is fine, an all Hispanic creative team, is fine, but those white folks—can’t trust them, the bigots. When they get together, racism follows.

Got it.

It is increasingly clear that the United States is witnessing open and organized discrimination against white citizens, and sooner or later, someone with skill and a following who isn’t afraid of being called a “racist” for pointing it out will do so. The quote above can be Exhibit A.

Well, maybe Exhibit B, after Kamala Harris.

16 thoughts on “Unethical Quote Of The Month: “A New Deal For Broadway”

  1. Not sure, Jack. Don’t Broadway audiences fawn at anything “anti-racist?” Won’t they all say, “right on!” and keep buying their tickets? What percentage of the Broadway audience is gay and therefore progressive? Has to be substantial. I think this is the equivalent of preaching to the choir when you’re talking about who buys tickets to Broadway and otherwise keeps it going. And the out of towners could give a rat’s ass about any of this sort of inside stuff. They just want to be able to say they saw such and such while they were in New York.

  2. I suspect the signatories to that agreement didn’t care whether it was legal, ethical, or otherwise. The policy statement governs.

    As for the mostly white audience, I also suspect that it will simply keep going to shows. They either won’t know about the declaration or they won’t care one way or the other; in fact, a ton of them probably think it is a great idea, one a long time coming.

    jvb

  3. I imagine this sick feeling in the pit of my stomach is much like the NFL fans felt once Kapernick started making headlines. I know a lot of lovely, intelligent people in the industry, and I’m sad to say most of them will swallow this hook, line, and sinker – and then go on to scold me for being a bad boy who dares doubt the word of our social betters, the black movement – hallowed be their name forever and ever, amen.

  4. I absolutely hate this, but I’ll keep going to their shows. Local community and professional troupes are great, too, but you can’t beat the offerings at Broadway. I assume Broadway is willing to bet the vast majority of their audience either agrees with this sort of rubbish or isn’t willing to give up seeing their shows.

  5. Having spent more than four decades at the intersection of theatre and higher education, I recognize more than a few equivalencies here.
    Three decades ago, I was chastised by my dean for saying that Hilda Wangel in Ibsen’s The Master Builder effectively says she wants to be raped. The fact that she does pretty much say that was irrelevant: some students were “uncomfortable.” I also committed the cardinal sin of suggesting that whereas feminist theory can be useful, and indeed I employed it frequently, not all feminist arguments are good arguments, in the same way that not all formalist or structuralist or historicist arguments are inherently good. And I continued to teach that course in modern western theatre the way I thought it should be taught.
    I was denied tenure at that college. I doubt that this incident had much to do with the decision, but of course it might have. My career was rerouted for a couple of years but not derailed, and the job I am now officially retiring from (although I’ll still teach a single class this fall and advise a student production) has given me many opportunities that I wouldn’t have had if I’d stayed where I was. Losing that job was ultimately a net plus.
    Equally if not more importantly, feminist arguments were removed from the Thou Shalt Not Criticize list not long thereafter. Five years later, it was variations on socialism that became the sacred cow. Obviously, feminist and socialist arguments still find their way into a lot of books and articles, but neither is now regarded as sacrosanct, however much some talking heads on the right argue otherwise. The fact is, academics and theatre artists alike tend to gravitate towards the hot new idea. These theories aren’t fads, exactly: we’re not talking about pet rocks or something. Rather, there’s often a core argument that really needs to be considered; it’s just covered up with a fair amount of (how to put this politely?) detritus.
    A decade ago I was a member of the Research and Publications Committee of one of the largest organizations in my field. The chair of the committee decided that at upcoming conferences the committee would sponsor no panels comprised exclusively of straight white men, regardless of the topic. I argued that such a restriction might be a good idea as a goal or a guideline, but not as a rule. Nope. Had to be a rule. (It will come as an enormous surprise, I’m sure, that the chair in question, a very privileged white man, was gay, so his participation wasn’t affected.)
    I quit the committee and gave serious thought to leaving the larger organization. I ended up not doing so, which is why I know that they’ve now gone hardcore Woke, complete with heartfelt ululations about how they regret their unspeakably racist past (which, of course, never existed). I may be the only person ever to attend literally all of their annual conferences since the organization was founded. (I don’t know that, but I know of no one else who can make the claim.) But much as I would love to spend time with my friends in the profession, I don’t think I’ll be back. Too much of the special Kool-Aid has been quaffed by too many Woke Folk in leadership positions.
    At the local level, there are too many university theatre departments now seeking to require “anti-racist” pedagogies in all courses; to make membership in student advisory committees, previously elected by the students, subject to quotas; to not only make certain “anti-racist” books mandatory reading for students and faculty alike, but to demand that they be read in a particular order! It’s crap like this that was a reason (among many) that I decided to retire before I’d originally planned to do so.
    So what is described here is not a surprise. What concerns me is not merely that the provisions are unjust and counter-productive. Rather, there’s an important point that gets lost in the shuffle, a variation on what I have called the Christine Vole Effect, whereby important truths are overlooked because far less important evidence over-reaches. There really have been discriminatory practices in the industry; members of certain demographic profiles haven’t faced a level playing field. That disparity obviously spills over into audiences, with black spectators appearing in disproportionately low numbers.
    We can look at that statistic and argue that the theatre ought to orient itself towards its actual audience, which is (or was, pre-COVID) significant, or we can try to increase the number of black theatre-goers. Perhaps one way to do that is to increase the involvement of black artists at all levels of the profession: actors, directors, designers, playwrights. Who knows? It might even work.
    None of this is to suggest that the details of document in question are anything but silly, discriminatory, and hypocritical (and, as you say, Jack, more than likely illegal). But we’ve been here before, and more than once. Still, whereas I take some comfort in the fact that in some ways there is nothing new in what we are witnessing, I am troubled by finding more insistence on an Orwellian (or perhaps Huxleyan) fidelity to prescribe ideologies. I am, as you well know, Jack, one of the most liberal of your readers. I have said for decades that in terms of freedom of speech I have more to fear from the handful of folks to my left than from the multitudes to my right. Never has that been more true than right now.
    All is not lost. Many of these restrictions are unenforceable; others will no doubt be struck down in the courts. There will be a new Shiny Something to gather around. And there are many places in academe and in the theatre world where sense prevails, where recognizing that the fact that some avenues were for far too long closed off to certain people does not mean that those avenues ought now be denied to someone else, instead. But the barbarians are at the gates.
    I despair, but I hold out hope. I hold out hope, but I despair.

    • Unless there has been a radical change in the makeup of the typical Broadway show (especially musicals) audience, it is still made up of groups (never singles) of middle class, middle-aged or ageing women.from “out-of-town”. Not the ones who are woke, though a few may pay homage or watch their “public” TV station or listen to NPR occasionally. Viz all the reruns of golden age stage. That’s still the makeup of San Francisco’s Broadway Theater. They subsist on a regular diet of people who come over the bridges or off the state highway ramps to see any and all of the shows. And they bring their kids. They fill the theaters while the sun shines. Nighttime is for couples (or less), young-ish and both well paid and the old, well invested.They will also dine out (whenever the late night restaurants open again). These people still exist, I know, … only 45 minutes from Frisco, oh not a gay.atmosphere.
      Do not despair, Jack, Curmie; We only have to do one thing: LIVE LONG ENOUGH.

    • The silliest thing I’ve ever seen. What does being “the Sex Pest,” as the NY Post calls him, have to do with his purportedly admirably produced and staged daily briefings? Nothing. I suppose they could have withdrawn the award because he was actually killing elderly people while he was conducting those daily briefings, but that’s not the reason the award was pulled. Insanity. Virtue signaling. Shouldn’t they be embarrassed for having fawned over the Cuomosexual god? Pathetic. All these award issuers have uniformly beclowned themselves.

      • Well, that may be, if we are to believe that he received the “special award” because his work was truly exceptional and above all others, rather than because he was the major “he’s not Trump” democrat voice on the Wuhan virus (all while not coming clean on his hand in nursing home deaths and related issues).

        The only other real politician to receive such an award was Al Gore, in 2007, for his launch of the (failed) Current TV. In that same set of awards, they gave a prize to the movie “Death of President”, about the fictional assassination of George W. Bush.

        So maybe forgive me if I’m not so quick to assume that politics don’t play a large role in assigning these “honors”.

        • Oh you’re absolutely right, Wim. He got the award for being a Democratic Icon, which was baloney. Then he lost the award for allegedly being crappy to women. Who knows. I also think there’s some piling on by the left here. For some reason, unrelated to all of this, Andrew has fallen out of favor with the Dems and the media and he had to be taken out. I’m not sure why but I suspect at some point the story will out. I think this was a political hit.

          • Yeah, considering the usual interference run for demo politicians, it’s sort of surprising how wiling others were to turn on him. It could be that, aside from Fredo, he was such an ass that he didn’t really have anyone who liked him, and once there was blood in the water, many were happy to see him torn apart. It probably didn’t help that his former political bedfellow, Attorney General Letitia James, is reportedly a favorite of NY “progressives”, and Cuomo, not so much.

  6. Well, I guess we will never see “Porgy & Bess” again. And most of Sydney Poitier’s repertoire must be extinguished because they do not meet the new norms.

  7. Broadway is figuratively putting nails in their own coffin.

    I’m a theater buff that’s participated in many theatrical shows, acted in some, directed some, artistic designer for some, stage manager for some, construction manager for some, even dabbled in props, and I’ve attended many shows on the other side of the proscenium and the theater is rapidly becoming completely irrelevant to me because of their virtue signaling nonsense and shoving the political pendulum in the theater world so far left that they’re insufferable because it’s now all about social justice politics to them and they proudly wear it on their shoulders every moment of every day. As this sentiment spreads across the country, Broadway will be come a ghost town where only those in search of the ghosts of days gone by and are consumed by the extreme political left and social justice will participate on either side of the proscenium.

    I’m done with them.

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